See – Good – Take: The threefold movement of sin
In my readings of Genesis this week, I was struck by two different stories about sin.
Adam & Eve with the Fruit (Genesis 3)
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)
There are three movements in Adam and Eve’s response to the serpent’s temptation.
- First Eve sees the fruit. This is her recognition of the presence of an item of potential sin.
- Then Eve names it as good. Even though internal, Eve next names the item of potential sin as good in her eyes. In fact, three descriptive words used here – ‘good’, ‘pleasing’, and ‘desirable’ – give us the picture that this item of potential sin is gripping Eve.
- Thirdly, Eve and Adam take the fruit and eat it. This is the actualization of sin by not only seeing and naming the object of potential sin, but actively enjoying that object in some way.
This is the threefold movement of sin: see – good – take.
The Sons of God and Daughters of Men (Genesis 6)
Later in Genesis 6, we come across a famously confusing part of Scripture where the sons of God marry daughters of men, and have children. In the great variety of interpretations available, it seems most likely that these sons of God are tyrannical, demonized rulers of the earth epitomizing what is wrong with humanity. It is these evil rulers – and those like them – that lead God to bring the flood on the earth.
But notice something in their activity:
The sons of God saw that these daughters were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. (Genesis 6:2)
Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke points out that this is the same pattern – even word for word in the original Hebrew – that we find in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve. These sons of God literally see the daughters of men were good, and they took as many of them as they chose. The threefold movement of sin (see – good – take) repeats itself here with women being objectified and used in sinful sexual activity. This sinful sexual activity contributes toward God’s judgment upon humanity in the catastrophic flooding of the earth.
Our Lives Today
Today, the pattern of sin is the same: see – good – take. We identify something or someone as a potential object of sin. We then name that thing or person as a good that we must obtain for ‘enjoyment’. Like Eve, we allow our desires to be energized around the pleasure or goodness we attribute to that object or person. Finally, we actively take that object or person as our own, trying to take in that thing or person through ownership or mastery for our own ends.
There are a few practical truths we can draw from this threefold movement of sin:
- Our ‘seeing’ must be restrained. At times we notice things or people without much further thought. At other times we choose to gaze upon something or someone with a rapt attention that becomes the doorway to sin in our lives. As God said to Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule it” (Genesis 4:7). Even as many people and things cross our path each day, we must not let our eyes gaze at the opportunity for sin. We must resist the lure of sin in order to pursue right living.
- ‘Good’ is not always right. Many times we are encouraged to simply seek after what seems ‘good’ to us. The truth of the matter, however, is that each of us is very capable of tricking ourselves into naming something evil as a ‘good’ to pursue. We do well to let the Holy Spirit of God sift through not only our desires, but our way of valuing people and things as ‘good’ or ‘evil’. The words of Psalm 139 are helpful here: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
- ‘Taking’ does not necessarily satisfy. The desires we hope to quench by ownership or mastery of an object or person through sinning will not bring what we truly want. Sin never satisfies. Sin only destroys. For Adam and Eve, ‘taking’ lead to expulsion from paradise and the first twinges of guilt humanity ever felt. For the sons of God, ‘taking’ lead to a catastrophic flood and physical death.
This threefold movement of sin – see, good, take – is powerful and at work all around us in the world. May we seek God’s help and guidance to break the movement in our own lives.
I am a husband to Kelly, father of three boys, a pastor, musician, avid hiker, disciple of Christ. Currently, I am employed as the Senior Pastor at Eastbrook Church in Milwaukee, WI. Before that I was the Associate Pastor at Brooklife Church in Mukwonago, WI, which I helped to plant a few years ago after serving for five years as the Collegiate Ministries Pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI. I graduated with a Masters in Divinity from Northern Theological Seminary and a Bachelors in English and Christian Education from Wheaton College (IL).